Saturday, March 3, 2007

"Hollywood du Jour" & "Chasen's" & "The Brown Derby Cookbook" - Oscar night recipes from old Hollywood

Dates I made these recipes: February 24 and 25, 2007

Hollywood du Jour – Lost Recipes of Legendary Hollywood Haunts by Betty Goodwin
Published by: Angel City Press
ISBN: 1-883318-22-X
© 1993
Recipe: Paprika Chicken from Mama Weiss Restaurant (in business from 1930-1954) – p. 32

Chasen’s – Where Hollywood Dined - Recipes and Memories by Betty Goodwin
Published by: Angel City Press
ISBN: 1-883318-23-8
© 1996
Recipe: Chili – p. 32

The Brown Derby Cookbook – prepared by the staff of The Brown Derby Restaurants (foreword by Robert H. Cobb, President, The Brown Derby Corporation)
Published by: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1949

The Brown Derby Restaurant - A Hollywood Legend by Sally Wright Cobb and Mark Willems
Published by: Rizzoli New York
ISBN: 0-8478-1925-6
© 1996
Recipe: Cobb Salad – p. 22 of the original Brown Derby Cookbook and p. 17 and 18 of The Brown Derby Restaurant published in 1996.

And the Oscar goes to….

Well, not that I want to brag or anything, but…me. Okay, not me since I wasn’t nominated and have never acted beyond my 11th and 12th grade school plays, but it was no easy feat to get these recipes done and served in time for the Oscar telecast. I think that deserves a medal of some kind. (Although don’t ask me why I invest my time watching a 4, 8, 12-hour program year after year. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before the final award was handed out, but seriously, could you blame me? And the Oscar goes to zzzzzzzzzzzzz…….)

Last week, I talked about how I tend to get all “matchy matchy” with my cookbooks and menus. I like themes. This past weekend, Academy Awards weekend, was the perfect time to pull out four Hollywood-related cookbooks.

On Saturday night, I made a Paprika Chicken from the cookbook, Hollywood du Jour. This book is fun because it provides recipes and stories about all the famous places that Hollywood’s elite used to frequent back in the day. This recipe was good but my guess is that it could have been better had I used really fresh paprika. The stuff I used came from a local spice store but it lacked that zing. The thing I really loved about this chicken recipe was the method: after browning onions in a little oil and paprika, you put the chicken in, cover, and let the chicken cook in its own fat for a half an hour. The chicken was unbelievably moist. I loved that method so much, that I used it when I made the Cobb Salad on Sunday.

On Sunday, I made two recipes, Chasen’s Chili and a Cobb Salad. Just like the participants in this year’s Oscar ceremony, I started my day darned early in order to get these recipes done by 6:00 when Barbara Walter’s special came on. (We can’t be missing “Baba,” now can we?) Make sure you allow 2 hours alone to cook the beans required in Chasen’s Chili recipe. You’ll also need time to cook the chicken, bacon and hard boil the eggs called for in The Brown Derby’s Cobb Salad.

And speaking of which, Chasen’s and The Brown Derby were THE Hollywood Hot Spots back in what I considered to be the glory years of old Hollywood (1930-1960). Actress Elizabeth Taylor so loved Chasen’s Chili that she had it sent to Rome where she was filming Cleopatra. In all honesty, I don’t know what the fuss is about but I’ve always associated Chili with Chasen’s so I made it. Same thing with the Cobb Salad and The Brown Derby.

For those of you who are fans of the TV show, I Love Lucy, you’ll recall the famous episode where Lucy, Fred and Ethel ate at The Brown Derby and Lucy, in her earnestness to meet the stars, accidentally caused a tray of food to be dumped on movie star, William Holden. That was one of my favorite episodes and so I was thrilled when I came across the cookbook several years ago. In 1996, Sally Wright Cobb, wife of founder Robert Cobb (for whom the Cobb salad was named) wrote a book about the history of this famous restaurant (the restaurant was actually in the shape of a brown derby hat). The photos alone will make you wax nostalgic for the glory days of Hollywood. Until that time, I’ll just keep working on my own version of an acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank my butcher without whom this would not be possible. A big shout out to the dairy section of my grocery store and….”

Paprika Chicken – serves 3 to 4 (from Hollywood du Jour)
2 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons shortening
2 ½ pounds chicken parts (I used two gigantic chicken breasts)
1 teaspoon paprika (try to buy the freshest paprika possible)
2 tablespoons flour
½ pint sour cream
½ cup water or chicken stock

Saute the onions in the shortening. Add paprika, salt and pepper, to taste. Add the chicken pieces and cover pot. Let it cook on a moderate flame in its own juice for about 30 minutes or until tender. Blend the flour and sour cream and add it to the pot. Add ½ cup water or chicken stock and cook for a few more minutes.

Chasen’s Chili – makes 10 cups, or six main dish servings

Okay, before we get started, let me tell you that I had to deviate from the recipe because of the unavailability of a few items. Chasen’s recommended that one use beef chuck, coarsely chopped and pork shoulder, coarsely chopped, but I had to settle for packages of ground beef and pork as that was all my store carried. I imagine most grocery stores are the same. I’m not sure if it made any difference or not, but there it is.

Similarly, Gebhardt’s chili powder and Farmer Brothers ground cumin are only available online so I substituted other brands. I am not enough of a connoisseur to know whether all chili powders are alike, but it’s possible that the use of these brands (available back in the 50’s) made all the difference because I found the chili to be bland despite the 1/3 cup of chili powder I added. It could be just my palate, but my mother’s chili had way more flavor than this recipe. Not that I want to argue with Elizabeth Taylor, but seriously, honey, I’m not sure I would have paid the big bucks to have this sent to you in Rome….

½ pound dried pinto beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup butter
2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Gebhardt’s chili powder (see above)
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pepper
1 ½ teaspoons Farmer Brothers ground cumin (see above)

Rinse the beans, picking out debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Drain off liquid.

Rinse beans again. Add enough fresh water to cover beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or until tender

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Simmer five minutes. In a large skillet sauté bell pepper in oil for five minutes. Add onion and parsley. Add mixture to bean mixture. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and sauté beef and pork chuck until browned. Drain.

Okay, let’s pause for a minute and talk about browning the beef and pork. First, the combination of a whole stick of butter with the ground beef and pork was a sight to behold. I thought the butter was overkill and didn’t think it added anything to the dish. Second, the amount of fat that resulted from the combination of these three was enormous, such that I drained the beef into a colander that I set on top of another pan. There had to be at least an inch of fat. When the directions call for “drain,” think “DRAIN!” or you will have one greasy pot of chili.

Once you DRAIN the meat, add it to the bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency. Chili shouldn’t be too thick – it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup. Skim off excess and serve.

NOTE: I was hoping that the flavor of this chili would improve upon age but it didn’t and that’s a tragedy because I have a ton left over. Oh well, just like the Academy Awards, not every recipe walks away a winner.

Cobb Salad – serves 4-6
½ bunch of lettuce
½ bunch watercress
1 small bunch chicory (Note: I could not locate any chicory in my grocery store)
½ head romaine
2 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled
2 breast of boiled roasting chicken (Note: I used the method described in the Paprika Chicken recipe and the chicken tasted great)
6 strips crisp bacon
1 avocado
3 hard-cooked eggs
2 tablespoons chopped chives
12/ cup fine grated imported Roquefort cheese
1 cup Brown Derby Old-Fashioned French Dressing (recipe to follow)

Cut finely lettuce, watercress, chicory, and romaine and arrange in salad bowl. Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds, slice finely, and arrange in a strip across the salad. Dice breasts of chicken and arrange over top of chopped greens. Chop bacon finely and sprinkle over the salad. Cut avocado in small pieces and arrange around the edge of the salad. Cut avocado in small pieces and arrange over the top the chopped eggs, chopped chives and grated cheese. Just before serving mix the salad thoroughly with French Dressing.

Brown Derby Old-Fashioned French Dressing - makes 1 ½ quarts
Note: I cut this recipe in half.
1 cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
2 ½ tablespoons of salt (whoa!)
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 bead garlic, chopped
1 cup olive oil
3 cups salad oil

Blend together all ingredients except oils. Then add olive and salad oils and mix well again. Chill. Shake before serving.


Kimberly Ann said...

I've been wanting these cookbooks so it was great fun to read your post. Think I'll try the paprika chicken myself.

Cookie said...

Re: Cobb Salad and Chicory

There are a couple of varieties of chicory that are available in US grocery stores, but they're not usually labeled as chicory. Chicory lends a characteristic sharp and somewhat bitter flavor to salads.

I'm guessing that the one called for in the Cobb salad is what is sold as Belgian Endive; the other is sold as Radicchio. Hope that helps somebody with the Cobb Salad recipe.